The Dance Complex turns 25
There’s gotta be something pretty remarkable going on to convince the city of Cambridge to shut down a city block at rush hour on a Friday.
But that’s exactly what’s happening on June 23 when Mass Ave between Pearl and Brookline Streets will be closed off for Festival of Us, You, We & Them, a massive celebration in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Dance Complex. While the bulk of the celebration will be Friday evening, there will also be a teaching artist and student showcase on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Peter DiMuro, executive artistic director of the Dance Complex, has been thinking about ways that this milestone could be commemorated since he came on board as artistic director four years ago. It was paramount, he thought, that the celebration be as diverse as the Central Square community itself, as well as the dizzying array of dance classes taught on a daily basis. From West African dance to classical ballet to bhangra, there’s not much that the Dance Complex doesn’t cover.
The festivities will kick off Friday, June 23 at 5 pm with dancing in the streets and in the windows of local businesses. Beginning at 5:30, the Dance Complex faculty will offer various dance lessons and demonstrations, both inside and outside. At 6, Boomerangs, a local thrift store, will present a fashion show on the main stage. Live music, courtesy of the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band, will begin after 8 pm.
At 8:30, over 100 dancers between the ages of 3 and 94 will come together for a massive performance of 25, 6, 7, 8 Flash Mob, which was choreographed by both the Dance Complex teachers and DiMuro’s dance company, Public Displays of Motion. 25, 6, 7, 8 Flash Mob will last for 25 minutes, one minute for each year that the Dance Complex has been in operation. More than 15 genres of dance will be on display, everything from hip-hop and ballet to West African and bhangra. It will be performed to a combination of live and recorded music, including live West African drumming and live vocals by Carl Alleyne.
Early work on the flash mob (or, as DiMuro calls it, “the non-flash-mob-flash-mob”) began in January when DiMuro gathered about 30 faculty members together and bribed them with wine, beer, and pasta. He paired the faculty off, ensuring that each person was paired with someone whose expertise was totally different from their own. The cha-cha teacher, for example, was paired with the flamenco teacher and the hula hoop teacher with a modern dance teacher. He asked them to come up with 30 seconds of collaborative movement. This movement was recorded on video and would also become the basis for the other massive showing of the evening: the illumination.
Just before 9 pm, the Dance Complex’s historic building—a five-story building from the late 1800s that was originally built as a meeting space for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows—will be illuminated using lighting and projections.
“I’ve been so taken by the geography of this building that I feel we need to celebrate the building as much as possible,” said DiMuro. “We had the ability to make the building dance and that was really important to me.” Live music played by Maria Finkelmeier and Drew Worden will accompany the spectacle, called Dance Happens Here. After the initial “performance,” the illumination will run on a loop until just after midnight.
Dance Happens Here is inspired, in part, by the fact that a number of people told DiMuro that until a studio opened with a window facing the street, they had no idea that there was dance happening in the old building. “There’s a strong connection for me about where dance happens,” said DiMuro. “If we don’t hide ourselves, we can really stake the claim that dance happens here in a big way. I think it’s just putting dance in a place so people don’t ignore it and people start to value it,” he added.
He’s got dreams of expanding this notion, via similar illuminations, throughout the city of Boston and to various organizations, like theaters and museums. “If we can get people to realize that dance is all around them and if it kind of infiltrates their lives in that way, it will be better for all of us.”
NOTE: Also check out Dig writer Micaela Kimball’s reporting on the Dance Complex, with more features in her series about the connective and healing powers of movement for immigrant communities coming soon.
DANCE COMPLEX’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION. BLOCK PARTY, FLASH MOB, AND ILLUMINATION 6.23. SHOWCASE 6.24–25. DANCECOMPLEX.ORG